Most of us, most of the time, feel left out–misfits. We don’t belong. Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, “insiders” who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded.
One of the ways we have of responding to this is to form our own club, or join one that will have us. Here is at least one place where we are “in” and the others “out.” The clubs range from informal to formal in gatherings that are variously political, social, cultural and economic. But the one thing they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savor the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.
Nowhere is the price more terrible than when it is paid in the cause of religion. But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a “membership.” But with God there are no outsiders.
Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.
THE MESSAGE NUMBERED EDITION
THE BIBLE IN CONTEMPORARY LANGUAGE EUGENE H. PETERSON